This was my first year growing anything from the Capsicum genus, I was a little concerned about the temperature and climate being problematic but growing in my polytunnel alleviated my concerns.
The varieties I chose to grow this year were: Alma Paprika, California Wonder, Dulce De Espana, Jalapeno and Serrano. Just because I chose them, does not mean that they co-operated however, the Alma Paprika was a total flop.
I chose these varieties for a few reasons, the Jalapeno and Serrano seeds were given to me and I really wanted to see what flavours I could get from a Paprika. I didn’t want to grow exceptionally hot peppers as I wouldn’t be able to eat them due to my IBS. Because red peppers are lower in FODMAPs I prefer to let them fully ripen and I chose varieties which ripen fully to a red colour. If Sorbitol isn’t an issue for you then chose any colour, there are loads of wonderful varieties!
I started my seeds off in February, in a warm cupboard with a grow light. I wanted to get an early start to my growing season so that I had some well established plants to go out. Next year I intend to use a warming mat to help things along as my germination rates were a little low and I was unable to get any Alma Paprika plants to germinate at all.
Potted on in mid March
Started hardening off in April with other Nightshade family for a few hours on warm days.
Went in to the polytunnel in mid May
First flowers appeared in early June
By late June the first fruits had started to peep through
Able to harvest by early July
By mid August one of the Jalapeno plants was finished, everything ripened all together when I wasn’t looking and the plant was dead! I think a heat wave followed by some much cooler weather was too much for the plant.
I was getting a pretty regular harvest of sweet peppers from mid August, the fruits got damaged by the cucumber leaves and it created some interesting shaped fruit as well as unfortunately damaging some beyond usefulness.
All finished by mid September, the plants had obviously had enough!
I decided to dehydrate most of the chili peppers, I like to add a little warmth to my food so having dried chili works well for me. Because the dehydrator would be running for some time I also dried some orange peel which I will use for some chinese dishes.
To dehydrate the peppers I split them in half and removed any large amounts of pith, this is to ensure the pepper fully dries and doesn’t get mouldy. The pith and seeds do hold a lot of heat but I’d rather not have a mouldy dinner. You can still dry the seeds out, I didn’t use a dehydrator for this though. I plan on saving a few seeds for next year to grow again.
What will I do differently next year?
Heat mat! Peppers generally prefer a warmer climate and many do not germinate or grow below a certain temperature
Separating the peppers from the cucumbers! I thought the big leaves from the cucumbers would help with weed suppression, which they did beautifully but the spikes damaged many of the peppers whilst they were growing.
MORE MORE MORE! I have really enjoyed growing peppers and am looking forward to putting more plants in next year.
Pruning and weeding, I don’t think I was able to give any of my Nightshade plants the attention they deserved. Part of being disabled and chronically sick is knowing what you can and can’t do, for most of this year the list of things I couldn’t do was too long. I think with a little extra attention my peppers would have done even better.